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The chief executive officer of slot machine giant International Game Technology had to endure a couple of body blows from her fellow panelists during a Global Gaming Expo round-table discussion Wednesday by female executives on the state of the industry and the economy.
Casino operators expressed a continued reluctance to replace older slot machines with some newer games displayed in the G2E's trade show.
Isle of Capri Casinos CEO Virginia McDowell, after telling the audience that "dysfunctional government in Washington D.C." continues to cause uncertainty among the nation's consumers and dampen spending, said slot machines were not in the regional gaming company's budget.
"I can spend $200,000 on 10 new slot machines or renovating one of our casino's restaurants," McDowell said. "What is going to create the best entertainment opportunity for our customers?
"This is not going to make Patti happy," McDowell said.
The economy and the gaming industry's recovery from two years of declining revenues were debated by the round table, which included Sheila Morago, executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and Akiki Takahashi, an executive vice president with Melco Crown Entertainment in Macau.
McDowell said the recent swings in the stock markets affect consumer spending.
"People are nervous about spending money," McDowell said.
The fallout has casino operators continually re-evaluating what is needed to drive customers to their properties.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. Senior Vice President Jan Jones said her company is focused on developing the $550 million Project Linq, a nongaming retail, dining and entertainment complex on the Strip scheduled to break ground this month.
Jones said expansion of the company's Strip casinos is not on the drawing board. "We don't need new casinos," Jones said. "We need new amenities."
Hart, whose company unveiled new slot machine titles and concepts throughout G2E, was not fazed. She said IGT understands the economic issues facing the industry and often negotiates price points with casino operators.
"There are no discounts, folks," Hart said.
Casino operators are looking at new markets where expansion makes sense. Caesars is opening two casinos in Ohio next year, has made a bid on one in Baltimore, and will explore Massachusetts should that state legalize casinos.
McDowell said Isle of Capri is spending $125 million to build a casino in Cape Girardeau, Mo., halfway between St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn. The city of 70,000 does not have a casino and is the state's last available gaming license.
"It's an underserved market, but it wouldn't make sense spending $1 billion to build something there," McDowell said.
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